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A.D. 370.] DBESS AND HABITATIONS Or THE MONKS. 119
Superstition has often framed and consecrated the fantastic garments of the monks :* but their apparent singularity sometimes proceeds from their uniform attachment to a simple and primitive model, which the revolutions of fashion have made ridiculous in the eyes of mankind. The father of the Benedictines expressly disclaims all idea of choice or merit; and soberly exhorts his disciples to adopt the coarse and convenient dress of the countries which they may inhabit.f The monastic habits of the ancients varied with the climate, and their mode of life: and they assumed, with the same indifference, the sheepskin of the Egyptian peasants, or the cloak of the Grecian philosophers. They allowed themselves the use of linen in Egypt, where it was a cheap and domestic manufacture; but in the West, they rejected such an expensive article of foreign luxury.J It , was the practice of the monks either to cut or shave their hair; they wrapped their heads in a cowl, to escape the sight of profane objects; their legs and feet were naked, except in the extreme cold of winter; and their slow and feeble steps were supported by a long staff. The aspect of a genuine Anachoret was horrid and disgusting: every sensation that is offensive to man was thought acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned the salutary custom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing them with oil.§ The austere monks slept on the
abandoned duties, the contagion of indolent habits, the soporific atmosphere of ignorance, the lessons of abject servility, the warning penalties of refractory insubordination, and the honours paid to sainted folly, involved all classes in one common hallucination, and invested subservient stupidity with the merit of pious docility. Under those auspices was achieved that conquest of the state which is falsely called the triumph of Christianity. It was the triumph of a power that trampled Christianity under foot and scorned every sacred obligation. In less than a hundred and fifty years after this, it made all weak but itself, subverted everything but its own domination, and planting its throne on the wreck, reigned for ten centuries in clouds and darkness.—Ed.]
* Cassian has simply, though copiously, described ,the monastic habit of Egypt (Institut. 1.1), to which Sozomen (1 . 3, c. li) attributes such allegorical meaning and virtue.
+ Regul. Benedict. No. 55, in Cod. Kegul. part 2, p. 51. J See the Rule of Ferreolus, bishop of Usez, (No. 31, in Cod. Regul. part 2, p. 136,) and of Isidore, bishop of Seville, (No. 13, in Cod.
granted for the hands and feet. "Totum autem corpus nemo ungue
§ Some partial indulgences were
ground, on a hard mat, or a rough blanket; and the same bundle of palm-leaves served them as a seat in the day, and a pillow in the night. Their original cells were low narrow huts, built of the slightest materials; which formed, by the regular distribution of the streets, a large and populous village, enclosing within the common wall, a church, a hospital, perhaps a library, some necessary offices, a garden, and a fountain or reservoir of fresh water. Thirty or forty brethren composed a family of separate discipline and diet; and the great monasteries of Egypt consisted of thirty or forty families.
Pleasure and guilt are synonymous terms in the language of the monks; and they had discovered, by experience, that rigid fasts and abstemious diet are the most effectual preservatives against the impure desires of the flesh.* The rules of abstinence which they imposed, or practised, were not uniform or perpetual: the cheerful festival of the Pentecost was balanced by the extraordinary mortification of Lent; the fervour of new monasteries was insensibly relaxed; and the voracious appetite of the Gauls could not imitate the patient and temperate virtue of the Egyptians.f The disciples of Antony and Pachomius were satisfied with their daily pittance J of twelve ounces of bread, or rather biscuit, § which they divided into two frugal repasts of
nisi caus& infirmitatis, nec lavabitur aqua nudo corpora, nisi languor perspicuus sit." (Regul. Pachom. 92, part 1, p. 78).
* St. Jerome, in strong, but indiscreet language, expresses the most important use of fasting and abstinence.—" Non quod Deus universitatis Creator et Dominus, intestinorum nostrorum rugitu, et: 2iitate ventris, pulmonisque ardore deleotetur, sed quod aliter pu .itia tuta esse non possiL." (Op. tom. i, p. 1S7, ad Eustochium.) S»>e the twelfth and twenty-second Collations of Cassian, de Castitate, and dc lUimonibus Nocturnit. + Edacitas in Grsecis gula est, in
Gallis natura. (Dialog. 1, c. 4, p. 521.) Cassian fairly owns, that the perfect model of abstinence cannot be imitated in Gaul, on account of the aerum temperies, and the qualitas nostra fragilitatis. (Iustitut. 4. 11.) Among the western rules, that of Columbanus is the most austere; he had been educated amidst the poverty of Ireland, as rigid perhaps, and inflexible, as the abstemious virtue of Egypt. The rule of Isidore of Seville is the mildest: on holidays he allows the use of flesh. J " Those who drink only water, and have no nutri
tious liquor, ought, at least, to have a pound and a half (twenty-four ounces) of bread every day." State of Prisons, p. 40, by Mr. Howard.
§ See Cassian. Collat. 1. 2, 19—21. The small loaves, or biscuit, of six ounces each, had obtained the name of paximacia. (Roaweyde, A.D. 370.] THEIE MANUAL XABOTJB. 121
the afternoon and of the evening. It was esteemed a merit, and almost a duty, to abstain from the boiled vegetables which were provided for the refectory; but the extraordinary bounty of the abbot sometimes indulged them with the luxury of cheese, fruit, salad, and the small dried fish of the Nile.* A more ample latitude of sea and river fish was gradually allowed or assumed; but the use of flesh was long confined to the sick or travellers; and when it gradually prevailed in the less rigid monasteries of Europe, a singular distinction was introduced; as if birds, whether wild or domestic, had been less profane than the grosser animals of the field. Water was the pure and innocent beverage of the primitive monks; and the founder of the Benedictines regrets the daily portion of half a pint of wine, which had been extorted from him by the intemperance of the age.f Such an allowance might be easily supplied by the vineyards of Italy; and his victorious disciples, who passed the Alps, the Rhine, and the Baltic, required, in the place of wine, an adequate compensation of strong beer or cyder.
The candidate who aspired to the virtue of evangelical poverty, abjured, at his first entrance into a regular community, the idea, and even the name, of all separate, or exclusive, possession-J The brethren were supported by their manual labour; and the duty of labour was strenu
Onomasticon, p. 1045.) Pachomius, however, allowed his monks some latitude in the quantity of their food; but he made them work in proportion as they ate. (Pallad. in Hist. Lausiac. c. 38, 39, in Vit. Patrum, 1. 8, p. 736, 737.) [The proper term for one of these six-ounce portions was paximatium. See Du Cange, 5. 307. He gives it the meaning of "panis subcinerieius vel reooctus." Biscuit is therefore its correct designation. Suidas derived the name from one Paxamus, by whom it was said to have been invented.—Ed.] * See the
banquet to which Cassian (Collation 8. 1,) was invited by Serenus, an Egyptian abbot , + See the Rule of St. Benedict, No. 39, 40,
(in Cod. Reg. part 2, p. 41, 42.) Licet legamus vinum omnino monachorum non esse, sed quia nostris temporibus id monachis persuaderi non potest; he allows them a Roman hemina, a measure which may be ascertained from Arbuthnot's Tables. J Such expressions
as my book, my cloak, my shoes, (Cassian. Institut. 1.4, c. 13,) were not less severely prohibited among the Western monks, (Cod. Regul. part 2, p. 174. 235. 288), and the Rule of Columbanus punished them with six lashes. The ironical author of the Ordrea Monastiqiies, who laughs at the foolish nicety of modern convents, seems ignorant that 122
LITEEAET LABOUES. [CH. XXXVII.
ously recommended as a penance, as an exercise, and as the most laudable means of securing their daily subsistence.* The garden, and fields, which the industry of the monks had often rescued from the forest or the morass, were diligently cultivated by their hands. They performed, without reluctance, the menial offices of slaves and domestics; and the several trades that were necessary to provide their habits, their utensils, and their lodging, were exercised within the precincts of the great monasteries. The monastic studies have tended for the most part, to darken, rather than to dispel, the cloud of superstition., Yet the curiosity or zeal of some learned solitaries has cultivated' the ecclesiastical, and even the profane, sciences; and posterity must gratefully acknowledge, that the monuments of Greek and Roman literature have been preserved and multiplied by their indefatigable pens.f But the more humble industry of the monks, especially in Egypt, was contented with the silent, sedentary occupation, of making wooden sandals, or of twisting the leaves of the palm-tree into mats and baskets. The superfluous stock, which was not consumed in domestic use, supplied, by trade, the wants of the community: the boats of Tabenne, and the other monasteries of Thebais, descended the Nile as far as Alexandria; and, in a Christian market, the sanctity of the workmen might enhance the intrinsic value of the work.
the ancients were equally absurd. * Two great masters of
ecclesiastical science, the P. Thomassin, (Discipline d'Eglise, tom. iii, p. 1090—1139,) and the P. Mabillon, (Etudes Monastiques, tom. i, p. 116—155,) have seriously examined the manual labour of the monks, which the former considers as a merit, and the latter as a duty.
+ Mabillon (Etudes Monastiques, tom. i, p. 47—55,) has collected many curious facts to justify the literary laboura of his predecessors, both in the East and West. Books were copied in the ancient monasteries of Egypt, (Cassian. Institut. 1. 4, c. 12,) and by the disciples of St. Martin. (Sulp. Sever. in Vit. Martin. c. 7, p. 473.) Cassiodorus has allowed an ample scope for the studies of the monks; and we shall not be scandalized, if their pen sometimes wandered from Chrysostom and Augustin, to Homer and Virgil. [It would indeed have been strange, if among the millions of monks, in so many ages, a few had not relieved by study the monotony of their lives, and even betaken themselves by choice to literary pursuits. Yet what is the sum of their labours? Gibbon has truly said, that they "tended for the most part rather to darken than dispel the cloud of superstition." That they have preserved for us some portions of ancient literature, is but an equivocal merit. How were the rest destroyed? The praise of having "led Europe
But the necessity of manual labour was insensibly superseded. The novice was tempted to bestow his fortune on the saints, in whose society he was resolved to spend the remainder of his life; and the pernicious indulgence of the laws permitted him to receive, for their use, any future accessions of legacy or inheritance.* Melania contributed her plate (three hundred pounds weight of silver), and Paula contracted an immense debt, for the relief of their favourite monks; who kindly imparted the merits of their prayers and penance to a rich and liberal sinner, f Time continually increased, and accidents could seldom diminish, the estates of the popular monasteries, which spread over the adjacent country and cities; and, in the first century of their institution, the infidel Zosimus has maliciously observed, that, for the benefit of the poor, the Christian monks had reduced a great part of mankind to a state of beggary. J As long as they maintained their original fervour, they approved themselves, however, the faithful and benevolent stewards of the charity which was intrusted to their care. But their discipline was corrupted by prosperity; they gradually assumed the pride of wealth, and at last indulged the luxury of expense. Their public luxury might be excused by the magnificence of religious worship, and the decent motive of erecting durable habitations for an immortal society. But every age of the church has accused the licentiousness of the degenerate monks; who no longer
vain and sensual pleasures of the world, which they had
forth from the dark ages," has been of late ostentatiously claimed for them by some, and inconsiderately accorded by others; but we must bear in mind, that it is to them we owe those dark ages.—Ed.]
* Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom, iii, p. 118. 145. 146. 171 —179,) has examined the revolution of the civil, canon, and common law. Modern France confirms the death which monks have inflicted on themselves, and justly deprives them of all right of inheritance.
+ See Jerome, tom, i, p. 176. 183. The monk Pambo made a sublime answer to Melania, who wished to specify the value of her gift. "Do you offer it to me, or to God? If to God, He who suspends the mountains in a balance, need not be informed of the weight of your plate." (Pallad. Hist. Lausiac. c. 10, in the Vit. Patrum, 1. 8, p. 715.)
% T6 Ttoxv /itpoc Ttig yijg itwciwaavrO, irpoipaott rov jiirafiiSovai iravra irrw^oic, iravraz (wc tiirtiv) irrwyovc KaTaaT-iinarnq. Zosim. lib. 5, p.325. Yet the wealth of the Eastern monks was far surpassed by the princely greatness of the Benedictines.